The Things They Carried Narrative Essay


Literature Summary: “The Things They Carried”, published in 1990 tells a true story of Tim O’Brian, author and main character, who is drafted for the Vietnam war. He tells about the different items that him and his fellow soldiers carried with them to help cope with the traumatic environment that they were placed in.

Thesis Statement: The Things They Carried is a perfect example that shows that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an issue as old as war, only recently have we discovered its true effects on our servicemen and women, and we have yet to find a truly effective remedy. I. What are the causes of PTSD?

A. Tony Dokoupil claims “moral injury” is the leading cause of PTSD. B. Robert Burns says army suicides are way to high.
II. How current treatment for PTSD is failing?
A. Lindsey Tanner reveals that dangerous painkillers are given to vulnerable veterans. B. Tony Dokoupil examines the changes in a group of veterans once they return from battle. III. How could treatment be better?

A. William Becker shares his belief on the ideal treatment.
B. What is our job as civilians for our veterans?
PTSD: An Epidemic
Does America Need to Improve Treatment?

Most Americans know that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is something that effects veterans when they come back from war. However, most Americans don’t know the full extent of PTSD in a veteran’s life. There are some very serious effects of war that change the lives of veterans and those close to them. Most soldiers want to protect their country and still make it home alive. This sometimes forces an innocent man to do things that he is ashamed of.

Also, just the trauma and risk of being in a war can cause a man to be changed drastically when he returns from war. The treatment for this common disorder is lacking effectiveness. In some cases veterans end up being worse after finishing treatment and others just cover up their guilt and sadness with prescription drugs. Being one of the most advanced countries in the world it is only reasonable that America could find a better way to treat this devastating syndrome. It is the least American citizens can do for sending thousands of troops into a traumatic situation.

The Things They Carried is a perfect example that shows that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an issue as old as war, only recently have we discovered its true effects on our servicemen and women, and we have yet to find a truly effective remedy. In the book The Things They Carried Lieutenant Jimmy Cross feels guilty because he believes that he is not the leader that the men in his company need (1990). Tony Dokoupil also discusses this in his article, “Moral Injury”, by stating that recent studies have discovered that guilt may be a major factor of PTSD.

Dokoupil talks about a group of marine preservatives, the Saints and the Sinners. He explains how Fox Company, members of The Saints and the Sinners, were walking through the streets of Baghdad when their radio operator was shot in the head. Fox Company began taking heavy fire, so they started shooting at everything that moved. Instantly bullets rained down and a grenade even bounced behind their cover. However it was a dud. Tony claims that “moral injury” is the leading cause of PTSD. Most marines talk about guilt, shame, or regret, not about being scared.

Dokoupil continues to write about Lu Lobello who was a machine gunner in Fox Company. When Lobello talked to a group of people about his experience, he revealed that they had killed about 20 civilians that particular day in Baghdad. Lobello describes the many cars holding families in them that were lifeless after the firefight. His most disturbing image of that day was a fellow marine who turned to Lobello and screamed, “We shot a baby” (as cited in Dokoupil, 2012)! Dokoupil explains that marines aren’t scared, they feel guilty and regretful (2012).

In Robert Burns article, “Military Suicides are at a Record High”, he stresses “Suicides in the U. S. Military surged to a record 349 last year. ” Burns explains that not only is this number way too high, but is 48 suicides more than the year before (2012). Warren Kinghorn, a psychiatrist at the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), stresses that in 2012, suicide was a greater cause of death than combat for Army soldiers. “An estimated 10%-20% of returning combat veterans meet criteria for PTSD,” says Kinghorn.

She explains that when a veteran walks into the VA, the treatment often involves a short-term talk therapy course and medication. “That is far from enough”, Kinghorn expresses. The definition of PTSD is having “experienced, witnessed, or (have) been confronted with death or serious injury in oneself or others. ” This is very misleading because most veterans suffer due to taking the life of other human beings. Shira Maguen, a psychologist at the San Francisco VA Medical Center, has documented that PTSD is worse and thoughts of suicide are higher among veterans who have killed someone (as cited in Kinghorn, 2012). (2012)

According to an article by Lindsey Tanner, a government study claims that pain killers such as morphine are being prescribed to veterans who suffer from physical pain along with PTSD, and the results are often dangerous. The same study mentions that not only are these veterans prone to drug and alcohol abuse but they are twice as likely to be prescribed addictive pain killers over veterans with only physical pain. Along with addiction, suicides, and other self inflicted injuries, are more common for veterans with PTSD who received those drugs.

Michael Von Korff, a chronic illness researcher, stresses that the emotional problems involved in PTSD are often made worse by these opioids (as cited in Tanner, 2012). Tanner goes on to say, “These prescriptions went to almost 18 percent of vets with PTSD and 12 percent of those with other mental health problems, compared to about 7 percent of vets without these problems. ” Dr. William Becker, a Yale university instructor, says “The study brings much needed attention to the complexity of this problem (2012). ” Tony Dokoupil’s article points out that even though Fox Company made it home alive they were changed forever.

One in four of them had PTSD. The men of Fox Company tried to hide it, but careers crumbled and marriages fell apart. Dokoupil adds, “Self harm is now the leading cause of death for members of the army… Every month 1,000 of them attempt to take their own lives (2012). ” This is similar in the novel The Things They Carried. Tim introduces us to his daughter Kathleen, he tries to tell her the meaning of war and why we participate in it but he just cannot tell her the whole truth. Just like Fox Company Tim had done things that he was ashamed of and he could not talk about them openly to his family.

Which is why treatment is such an important foundation for veterans (1990). In Lindsey Tanner’s article “Vets Prone to Drug Addiction Get Risky Painkillers”, William Becker says “The ideal treatment includes behavioral counseling therapy for war wounds and management of chronic pain” (as cited in Tanner, 2012) (2012). “On Guard Against PTSD” is an article that explains that security professionals who get assigned to dangerous, stressful situations will also experience post-traumatic stress. This is normal says the article, but when this occurs continuously and intensely is when it gets dangerous.

The article continues by stating that sooner or later the human body runs out of ways to cope and is overwhelmed mentally and physically, leading to PTSD (2013). Warren Kinghorn also explains in his article, “The Moral Dimensions of PTSD”, that as civilians it is our job to take care of the veterans and have patience with their recovery, we sent them to war in the first place, it’s the least we can do (2012). PTSD going untreated is still a current epidemic. “Gunman killed by police was Iraq vet who spoke of PTSD” is an article explaining the story of Santiago A. Cisneros III.

He lived in Multnomah county and on Monday, March 4th, 2013 he opened fire on two police officers. The officers had no choice to shoot back and kill Cisneros. This Oregonian veteran had frequently talked about PTSD and how he may have it, but he never got treatment. This just shows how these men and women are expected to be tough and strong and how they can feel ashamed to ask for help (2013). “Take heart; Post-traumatic stress disorder” says that the death and suicide of too many veterans has prompted the Army to promise that seeking treatment will not affect a soldiers job.

This article also says that the idea of giving PTSD sufferers a Purple Heart award has been tossed around among government officials. This only seems fair due to the life-changing risk that they took to end up with this dramatic disorder (2009). America should take Ted Lavender into account when they think of how not to treat PTSD. He is another character that O’Brian writes about in The Things They Carried. Sadly he dies shortly after the novel begins but up until that point he is popping tranquilizer pills to calm himself down. This illustrates the type of addiction that could occur in a veterans life (1990).

Post-traumatic stress disorder is extensively described in the book The Things They Carried. It shows that PTSD is an injury that hasn’t changed in decades. The only thing that has changed is America’s knowledge of it. It has been called shell shock, battle fatigue, accident neurosis, PTSD, and even more recently it is known as “moral injury. ” Even though America cannot precisely pinpoint what causes this disorder, the doctors who treat veterans can narrow it down by using examples of previous patients, examples such as guilt and taking another man’s life.

Currently the system for treating veterans with PTSD is failing, and in some situations making patients worse, like supplying addicted veterans with drugs. Short amounts of therapy and large amounts of painkillers are not what they need. Veterans need time and support with years of talk therapy to work through the moral dimensions of PTSD. For veterans who have this disorder it is a scary and helpless situation. They deserve good quality medical care, but if America cannot find a way to better treat this dilemma then future veterans will be faced with the same trauma that previous veterans have faced for years.

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